Working class families need more support for child care costs, according to Katie McGinty, a Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate and Tom Wolf’s former chief of staff. In her recently released “Agenda for Working Women and Working Families,” she threw support behind the Sen. Bob Casey-sponsored Child CARE Act, a measure that would beef up tax credits for low-income parents to help with make early childhood programs more affordable.
McGinty’s agenda offers figures to back her rationale: “Here in Pennsylvania, the annual cost for infant childcare is over $10,000 per child, which is more than most families pay in rent and almost the same cost as in-state college tuition.”
The senate candidate’s figures on child care, rent and tuition all hail from a Child Care Aware of America report released this past December. The following are the yearly averages provided in this report for Pennsylvania: Sending a toddler to daycare ($10,640) is 20 percent less expensive than sending a kid off to college to a state four-year institution ($13,246), but indeed costs more than a year of rent ($9,780).
But where did Child Care Aware of America, a consumer education network, get their numbers from exactly? The estimates for child care costs they tabulated themselves, culling data from local chapters nationwide, sourcing market surveys from state departments of human services and adjusting for inflation when applicable, in Pennsylvania’s case, for figures from 2012. But with that said, Kait Gillis, press secretary for the state Department of Human Services, said in an email that the department is “comfortable with that number.”
The report says it pulls its rental estimate from the Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Expenditure Survey, and the tuition price from the 2013 College Board “Trends in College Pricing” report. However, these are not where the numbers are from, a Child Care Aware of America researcher confirms. The correct College Board trends report sourced was the 2014 edition. Annualized rent came not from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, but a 2013 Census monthly estimate. Cross-referencing with the accurate sources shows that these numbers were recorded exactly in the report.
The five-figure expense of early childhood programs may come as a surprise, but according to economics reporter Jordan Weissmann, the enrollment costs have been scaling upward since the ’80s. In a report for Slate last year, Weissmann debunks an earlier inkling of his: That tight government regulations on educator ratios and facility size might be causing costs to rise. Studies prove otherwise, he wrote. “It’s fairly simple. You have to pay human beings to watch over kids. And while child care workers aren’t paid especially well, they do have to be paid,” explained Weissmann. “If you look at sample budgets for day care centers, or talk to people in the industry, they’ll tell you that, aside from real estate, most of the costs boil down to labor.”
McGinty said, “Here in Pennsylvania, the annual cost for infant childcare is over $10,000 per child, which is more than most families pay in rent and almost the same cost as in-state college tuition.”
Average infant childcare costs in Pennsylvania do surpass rent prices, as McGinty accurately states. The questionable portion of this claim is the comparison between child care and college tuition and whether these prices are “almost the same.” Average college tuition for public colleges in the Keystone state is 20 percent higher — not the largest difference, but still significant, especially to lower-income families. We rate this claim Mostly True.